What would you do with a million dollars? Plenty of Americans have daydreamed about what might happen if they had that kind of cash. But you don’t see many people fantasizing about the sacrifices needed to achieve millionaire status. This could be why so many people feel differently about what they’re willing to give up to reach that second comma in their net worth — or at least that’s what a recent survey from GOBankingRates revealed.
The survey took some 1,000 Americans who believe that they’ll become a millionaire in their lifetime and asked, “If you had to make some sacrifices to become a millionaire, which of the following would you do?” The results revealed that Americans are remarkably split over what they would give up on their path to becoming millionaires. While data suggests plenty of people believe that reaching a net worth of $1 million is not only within their reach but also won’t require them to give up much, some Americans are clearly willing to sacrifice a lot.
Never Eat Out or Drink Alcohol
- Percentage of respondents: 35.3%
If you’re consumed with how to get rich quick, cutting out restaurants and bars might not be your preferred option. However, if you’re interested in building wealth over time, avoiding expensive restaurants and pricey cocktails is actually one of the best avenues for increasing your savings. For those building up a nest egg of $1 million or more using tried-and-true strategies — like careful budgeting, saving and investing — this could be one of the most useful steps to take.
Work Longer and/or Retire Later
- Percentage of respondents: 33.6%
How do you save $1 million for retirement? Well, for about a third of Americans, the answer is clear: just work as long as it takes. In fact, for many Americans, a retirement account with at least $1 million is a necessity. To that end, few things will help you reach your goal like delaying retirement. Not only will you get a few more years of income and investment returns to pad your accounts, but you can also boost your monthly Social Security benefit and stretch your savings that much further when you do decide to retire.
This answer choice was remarkably consistent across age groups, with almost identical proportions of respondents ages 18 to 24 and respondents older than 55 selecting this option.
Drive an Older Car
- Percentage of respondents: 33.3%
As far as value goes, few decisions are smarter than sticking to pre-owned cars. Carfax research suggests that a brand-new car loses 10% of its value in the first month, 20% in the first year and 40% by the end of year five. So, if you’re wondering how to become a millionaire, choosing to drive a car that’s a few years off the assembly line is a good place to start.
That said, it’s a little curious how just one in three respondents selected this option. While over 40% of respondents ages 18 to 24 would drive an older car to reach a net worth of $1 million, that rate decreases with age. The 65-and-older cohort is the least likely to make this sacrifice, with just one in four respondents willing to compromise on their wheels to hit a $1 million savings goal.
Keep a Job They Don't Like
- Percentage of respondents: 31.6%
Working in a job you don’t love isn’t easy. Few things will sap your energy like having to return, day after day, to work that isn’t fulfilling. Still, more than three out of 10 people in GOBankingRates’ survey felt that their happiness at work is worth sacrificing if it means having $1 million to their name.
However, it’s somewhat surprising that so many respondents opted to include this among their answers. In terms of time commitment, a job you don’t enjoy is still going to eat up about 40 hours a week — not to mention many years of your life.
Deal With Higher Levels of Work-Related Stress
- Percentage of respondents: 26.6%
Given the detrimental effects that stress can have on your health and happiness, you’re probably better off finding other avenues to hit that $1 million savings goal.
The survey results broken down by age seem to support this claim. The older the respondent, the less likely they were to select this option. Of the respondents ages 18 to 24, about 43% selected this sacrifice, but the 25-to-34 age group — a demographic more likely to have spent time in the professional workplace — selected it at a rate of 33.7%. The response rate fell all the way to 17.7% for those ages 65 and older, indicating that the more familiar you are with work-related stress, the less appealing this option becomes.
Take On a Second Job
- Percentage of respondents: 26%
Finding a side hustle might involve working a job that you don’t enjoy. However, this is one strategy that has the potential to make a big difference in your life — having a second income stream can help pad your savings year after year.
Interestingly, this is one area where the difference between the two genders was the most pronounced. Just 23.3% of men felt that taking on a second job was a worthwhile sacrifice, compared to 28.8% of women.
Give Up Vacation Time at Work
- Percentage of respondents: 20.5%
One in five people said they would give up their vacation time to get to $1 million. You could argue that regularly going on vacation is a healthier approach to achieving financial goals. After all, your time off is an important part of your job, allowing you to rest and recharge so that you’re at your best when you return to your colleagues. Still, giving up vacation time was one of the more popular options selected in the survey.
This is another answer choice with a pronounced difference in response rates between men and women. More than 23% of men were ready to give up their vacation time, while just 17.6% of women felt the same way.
Never Attend a Fun Event
- Percentage of respondents: 19.3%
Given that this sacrifice would likely coincide with “never eat out or drink alcohol,” it’s interesting that just under half as many people selected this option. These results seem to indicate that Americans are much more enamored with the experience of going to a football game or a concert than they are with downing their favorite alcoholic beverages or eating overpriced food.
Delay Starting a Family
- Percentage of respondents: 18.3%
Balancing a family with a career has always been difficult, usually requiring sacrifices by one or both parents to ensure they’re meeting all of their responsibilities. And, when it comes to reaching $1 million in savings, the major expenses incurred from raising children will undoubtedly delay that goal. You’ll have to start thinking about saving for college or potentially upgrading to a larger home. There will also be a significant increase in spending on basic necessities.
All of those things will put a big dent in your financial plans. As such, it’s not hard to understand why nearly one in five respondents would make this sacrifice to reach their $1 million goal. However, it’s also understandable why this option doesn’t rate higher. After all, having a family is a major life step that many people are unwilling to compromise on.
Give Up Their Hobbies
- Percentage of respondents: 17.2%
Of course, if your hobby is putting money in your savings account, this won’t apply to you. But, for the vast majority of Americans, their hobbies are likely eating up a chunk of their disposable income — or, at the very least, their time. Setting aside a beloved hobby is never easy, but if it means saving money and potentially having more time to invest in other areas, it could be a key step to reaching millionaire status faster.
That said, a singular focus on your career or finances isn’t a healthy choice for most people. If dropping your hobby leaves you uninspired at work or disrupts relationships with important people in your life, the long-term effects could result in reduced earning power and a less happy existence. It’s not surprising that many of the respondents in this survey see their hobbies as too important to let go.
Move Back Home With Parents
- Percentage of respondents: 16.1%
Housing costs are likely your largest financial commitment — particularly if you’re living in an expensive locale. As a result, eliminating those costs entirely is one of the most effective ways to tack on additional savings, especially if you’re still relatively young. Putting money into an individual retirement account or another investment account instead of spending it on rent would allow you to take advantage of compound interest. You can grow that investment into a huge chunk of the $1 million you’re looking to save by your 40s or 50s.
But, it’s worth noting that moving back home is a very personal decision, and your relationship with your parents is clearly a defining factor. Living with your parents again could cause an unnecessary strain in that relationship. So, while the financial benefits are clear, it’s also not surprising that almost 85% of respondents weren’t willing to accept this sacrifice.
Become a Social Outcast or Pariah
- Percentage of respondents: 15.8%
Humans are social creatures by nature, so it’s not surprising that many people are unwilling to become outcasts in their pursuit of a $1 million nest egg. But, there are still approximately 16% of respondents who feel that wealth is more important than having a social life. Clearly, this is one option where the potential sacrifice is more hypothetical compared to several of the others — you’re probably not going to be faced with a clear decision between $1 million and loss of social status.
- Percentage of respondents: 15.2%
Most people dreaming of becoming a millionaire one day probably envision a jet-setting lifestyle. As such, it might make sense that many people don’t view giving up travel as a realistic option for chasing down $1 million. But, as any globetrotter knows, travel can be very expensive. Between airfare, hotels, food and other expenses, a trip can easily translate to thousands of dollars that — if saved or invested — could have put you closer to achieving your savings goal. Even if it just means taking a staycation instead, cutting out travel is one sacrifice that could play a crucial role in achieving some of your loftier financial goals.
Give Up a Consistent Source of Income
- Percentage of respondents: 12.8%
While “becoming a social outcast or pariah” is a mostly hypothetical sacrifice to consider, forgoing a steady income to chase a big but uncertain payday is a very real choice that many aspiring entrepreneurs are faced with. Starting your own company often means you won’t have a steady income stream to depend on, even if there’s a chance that it’ll pay off in the end.
In terms of risk vs. payoff, it’s interesting to note that men were more likely than women to select this option, at a rate of 15.1% compared to just 10.4% for women.
Give Up All Technology
- Percentage of respondents: 12%
For a lot of people, buying fancy electronics is part of becoming rich, so it might not be surprising that fewer people see this sacrifice as a viable option. What’s more, given how essential connectivity is for the vast majority of Americans, cutting out fancy electronics entirely would represent a pretty dramatic change to their quality of life.
While a decent smartphone and modest data plan don’t represent a huge monthly cost, think about how often you rush out for the latest release. If you’re hoping to become a millionaire before you retire, consider how much more valuable those few hundred dollars will be after spending a decade or two in the stock market.
Close Off All Romantic Relationships
- Percentage of respondents: 11.1%
John Lee Hooker once famously sang, “Your love gimme such a thrill, but your lovin’ don’t pay my bills” — a sentiment that about one in 10 respondents appears to share with the famed bluesman. Giving up any and all romantic relationships is a relatively dramatic sacrifice, so it might be predictable that this option was among the least popular. However, it’s also more than a little shocking that over 10% of those surveyed wanted a millionaire lifestyle without a partner to share it with.
Fortunately, this is not a real choice for most Americans. Sure, you can save significant amounts of money by not dating, but the reality is that a strong relationship with a good companion can improve your finances. You could put the second income toward mutual financial goals, or work out an even split on housing costs. So, before you give up on love, consider the benefits of planning a financial future with your partner.
Gain 100 Pounds
- Percentage of respondents: 7.1%
Gaining 100 pounds would likely have negative effects on your health, so simply chalking up the low response rate to vanity probably isn’t fair. That said, significantly more people were willing to sacrifice hobbies, traveling, fun events and all romantic relationships before putting on this much weight. As such, avoiding weight gain appeared to be more important to the survey population than falling in love or starting a family.
Is $1 Million Realistic Without Making Sacrifices?
Reaching $1 million in savings is no easy feat, but it’s also far from an impossible goal — especially for those ready to make the necessary sacrifices. However, if your first response to this survey is that a lot of people are being unrealistic about what it means to save $1 million, you might not understand how powerful a good budget and routine 401(k) contributions can be.
Per CNBC, you can hit $1 million by age 65 if you start setting aside just $300 a month at age 20 and average a 7% rate of return for your portfolio. That $300 a month would be around 6% of a $50,000 salary. So, while many people might have a naively optimistic outlook on their financial future, it’s just as possible that they have a realistic financial plan in place to get to $1 million.
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Methodology: GOBankingRates surveyed 1,001 Americans from across the country between April 22, 2019, and May 1, 2019, asking six different questions: (1) Do you have a plan to become a millionaire? (2) How long do you think it takes to become a millionaire? (3) What is the best way to become a millionaire? (4) Which of the following must you do first to become a millionaire one day? Please select the best answer; (5-6) If you had to make some sacrifices to become a millionaire, which of the following would you do? Select all that apply. Respondents could select “other” in questions 5-6 and fill in a custom response. Multiple respondents were unsure or unwilling to make any sacrifices. Respondents were initially screened with the following question: “Do you think you’ll become a millionaire during your lifetime?” Those who answered “yes” passed to complete the entire questionnaire. GOBankingRates used Survata’s survey platform to conduct the poll.
About the Author
Joel Anderson is a business and finance writer with over a decade of experience writing about the wide world of finance. Based in Los Angeles, he specializes in writing about the financial markets, stocks, macroeconomic concepts and focuses on helping make complex financial concepts digestible for the retail investor.